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Sexual Wellness

Condoms 101: Staying Safe in the Sack

| 02/15/2022

condoms Illustration by Sophi Gullbrants

Each year, the week of Valentine’s Day is used to celebrate an important part of love-making: staying safe. National Condom Week is practiced across America to bring awareness around the importance of using condoms and having safe sex.

There are a lot of ways to have safe sex, and Americans don’t really feel confident in their knowledge of it. In fact, a survey reported that only 33% of young people reported having any kind of sex education in their school, and even in many states where sex ed is offered, parents are allowed to opt out of their kids receiving it. This means many people don’t know how to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unwanted pregnancies, or sexual trauma.

In this article, we’re going to look at ways that you know about condoms, different kinds of barrier methods and how to use them, what they do, and additional measures you can take to make your sex life safer and more satisfying.

Condom Use for Safe Sex

Condoms are the easiest, most traditional protection for penetrative sex. They come in a variety of sizes, materials, and even flavors. Most commonly, they are made of latex, which can be a significant allergen for some people. Thankfully, there’s no need to suffer a rash every time you have sex, as there are many non-latex condom options, such as plastic or even lambskin. Although it’s important to note that lambskin condoms do not offer the same protection against STIs that other condoms do.

Let’s take a look at some of the different kinds of condoms out there.

External Condoms

External condoms are probably the image of a condom you have in your head, but contrary to popular belief they are not the only kind! Sometimes called “rubbers,” these are a thin sheath of material that goes on the outside of an erect penis. They prevent bodily fluids from exchanging, thus acting as an effective method of both STI prevention and contraception.

There are a multitude of different condoms. Some can even heighten pleasure by being ribbed or flavored, and most can be used with or without lube. However, oil-based lubricants can break down polyurethane, so you should make sure to not mix the two. If using a polyurethane condom, opt for a lube made from natural ingredients.

In order for external condoms to be effective, they must fit correctly. While opting for a larger condom size may feel more impressive, it’s essential to get one that actually fits. Measure the penis while erect and make sure to get one that fits.

Internal Condoms

Internal condoms, sometimes called female condoms, are designed to fit inside the vaginal canal and work on the same principle that external ones do. By providing a barrier, they can prevent an exchange of fluids that could cause STIs or unwanted pregnancies.

Like other condoms, internal condoms can be used with a lubricant and since they are often made of nitrile, you don’t need to be worried about oil-based lubricants. They can also be used with some sex toys that an external condom wouldn’t fit over. Overall, they provide another option for people looking to have safer sex.

It’s important to note that in the same way you wouldn’t wear two external condoms, you

shouldn’t mix internal and external condoms. Wearing both doesn’t provide double protection, but instead can damage or tear both barrier methods!

Dental Dam

While not technically a condom, dental dams are an important method for preventing STIs. Dental dams are thin pieces of material, usually polyurethane or latex, that are used during oral sex to cover the opening to the vagina or anus. Some STIs can be transmitted through saliva, so while less popular than internal condoms, dental dams are an essential part of having safe sex. Fortunately we’re seeing innovations in the space all the time!

However, since they are only used during oral sex, note that dental dams do not act as a contraceptive. To minimize these risks, dental dams should be used in conjunction with another type of condom if moving to penetrative sex. You can even make a dental dam out of a condom by cutting it, so you don’t need to keep multiple kinds on hand. Just be sure to use a fresh one!

Emotional Well-Being is Safe Sex Too

Sex is more than a physical act! It can also be affected by your emotional and mental health. In fact, an important part of safe sex is taking care of your own and your partner’s emotional well-being. There are a few ways to practice emotionally safe sex.

Aftercare

Sex has a beginning with foreplay, a middle with, well, the middle, and an end that often gets overlooked. However, the end is one of the most important parts! Taking time for aftercare is essential for protecting the emotional well-being of all participants. Aftercare can be any number of things, from casual pillow-talk about pangea, to cuddling or going over how things went.

If you’re enjoying the kinkier side of life, aftercare becomes even more essential. When having sex with BDSM dynamics, it’s important to take time to take care of everyone involved, to check in emotionally and physically, and make sure things that should be left in the bedroom feel contained. Your sexual fantasies aren’t necessarily how you live your day-to-day lives, so take some time in your aftercare routines to break down some power dynamics that might not be wanted outside of sex, and to “recalibrate” your relationship.

Mental Health

Your mental health can not only make it harder for you to want to have sex, but it can take tolls on how you feel about sex. Sometimes, certain trauma can become entangled into future sexual encounters. Being in a poor mental state can also impact your performance in bed.

The good news is while you can take outside trauma into the bedroom, you can also bring that healing in as well. Working on mental issues through an online psychiatry provider can help you to have more fulfilling sex, and also prevent it from triggering mental health issues at an inopportune moment.

Communication

Communicating in the bedroom is essential to protecting the emotional and physical well-being of all parties involved. This can ensure all parties are practicing enthusiastic consent, as well as having their needs fulfilled. Moreover, asking a partner if there are certain sexual acts that could be triggering prevents issues from arising on accident.

It’s important to create an environment in the bedroom where all parties feel comfortable and can communicate their needs. Having a safe word is common in many kink communities but can be used by anyone to help make sure that activities stop if they need to.

Safe sex means a much more than just one thing. It’s important to consider and combine these different methods to make sure that everyone is protected. So use this Condom Week as an opportunity to reevaluate what you’re doing to take care of your sexual health.

 

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